Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Albinor Chronicles Chapter 5
"Into Drow Castle"

By Marcus Pan

November 25, 002

Drow Castle"That is not a good idea, m'lord."

"Then what do you suggest, Barrazzo, my fine elf?"

"We wait," Barrazzo said.

"Wait? How long? We all know something terrible and treacherous is being performed in the Darkwood. Something that could very well spell death for all of Alfeim. We have agreed on that, all of us." The other six elven men nodded in agreement. "How long should we wait? Till Lolth herself comes to crush us between her toes? Nay. We must go and see what it is they are up to." The elf's face was stern. An entire nation was on his shoulders. A mature, elven man not more than 5' tall, the powers of elven magic glistened behind his eyes. He is Corellon Avantar, Elven King of Alfeim. A champion/enchanter in his own right, he has dwelled silently in his palace in the city of Alfeim as he sat and watched the darkness grow around him, set free from Lolth's Wood in the north of Alfeim. This dark place is the land of the drows, the dark elves, and noone has yet come out alive after entering the shadows of the Darkwood. "Nay. I must know what is going on there." Corellon said.

"Lord. Nobody has survived the terrors of that place of darkness. We do not know what lies in the shadows." This was spoken by Barrazzo Swordthruster, a swashbuckler who is the king's trusted captain. The other five men sitting in Corellon's Great Halle, a council chamber in his palace, are these five Mayor of Alfeim Glamour Faeriewalker, Mayor of Celltum Glendale Lorolen, Mayor of Shenrah Dalanor Gilthani'el, Warden of Lanksa Geran Whisperlane and Warden of Krafta Garonlinta Woodwarper. Neither of these five said a word.

"We can not sit and do nothing. The wood elves say the power is growing. Maybe we could talk to the master of Drow Castle. They could simply be spinning their own evil and leave us alone. Doubtful, but maybe a deal could be struck." said the king.

"The drow are merciless and evil folk. Their word is worth less than a dead toad." cried Barrazzo.

"What is your plan, then?"

"I have none. But you speak of a folly that will only end with our deaths." said the captain, standing.

"Our? I never bid you to go."

"You know well enough, "Barrazzo began, seating himself, "I would follow you to the gates of the Abyss."

"Do not speak of such." snapped Corellon.

"Yet it may very well be true." said the captain solemnly. "I will follow thee." Corellon rose to his feet.

"We ride tomorrow at first light, you and I. And a part of five palace guards of your choosing, Captain Swordthruster." He turned to look at Mayor Faeriewalker. "You are in charge in my absence." He began to slowly walk to the door. "Council is ended."

Long before the light of day came upon the forest of Alfeim the party was gathered. Corellon and Barrazzo had gathered and purchased what supplies they needed. Northwest along a trail they began their journey. With heavy hearts they came to the city of Celltum shortly before night fall. They were well-received by Mayor Lorolen, who left the city of Alfeim the night before after the council. They spent this evening with laughter and feasting. The bards sung of great deeds and legends Lobanna's defeat of the Tarrasque, the Legend of Gordonia and great deeds of their ancestors. Lolth's Wood seemed so far away.

The party was awoken slightly before sunrise. They ate quickly and bid the mayor thanks and good-bye. They left the city a little after sunrise and continued on foot bearing northwest on a straight course for Drow Castle heading through Alfeim's thick forest.

About mid-afternoon on the second day of travel from Celltum, there was a loud shout from one of the guards up front. "What's going on?" Barrazzo yelled, pulling his longsword from it's sheath. Corellon rushed forward behind him tugging his sword, a khanate, from the oaken sheath on his right side. When they came up the guard who yelled on his back, pinned by a huge weasel who had sunk it's sharp teeth into his arm just below his shoulder. The guard was frantically kicking at the beast and the other four were unsuccessful at striking it to force it to let go of the elf. The weasel's great fore and hind legs kicked at the others. Barrazzo came up behind the beast, but before he could land his blow a kick from the weasel's hind legs sprawled him on the ground. Corellon Avantar jumped forward as he ran up and landed on the beast's back as if it were a horse. With a great, downward thrust he sank his khanate in the base of the weasel's back. Finally letting go of it's victim, it opened it's mouth and let out a loud, chattering growl. As the king drew his blade from the creature's back, it leapt forward. Corellon was thrown off and landed hard against the base of a tree. The weasel darted out of sight. Luckily there were no deadly wounds. Nothing that rest and care couldn't cure.

In the early evening of the next day they came across Lolth's Wood. It seemed to watch them. They decided not to enter this final stage of their journey until the next day. They set up camp about 25 feet from the edge of the Darkwood. As much as they tried to ignore it and sleep, visions of darkness and shadow entered their dreams. They slept uneasily and awoke with little vibrance from the rest. Packing up after a meager and uneventful breakfast, they turned to the darkness of the wood. And then they entered it.

Visibility was strangely limited, almost as if light failed to penetrate the roof of dark boughs that stretched high overhead. The seven moved on uneasily. Various insects buzzed about their heads. The trees and the entire Darkwood itself seemed to be aware of their presence. More than once they drew their swords and turned around to find nothing there. The elves stepped lightly, feeling alienated in a strange world of shadows. Strange eyes seemed to peek at them from the trees, but they found nothing there when they stopped to investigate. The trees seemed to creak and groan unnaturally.

For two days they walked beneath these dark boughs, feeling ever more insecure to the point where the urge to leave this terrible place as soon as possible began to overwhelm them. But the will of Corellon Avantar stayed them. Campfire stories and travelling songs helped to raise morale and spirits slightly. But just as fears and the foreboding feeling of death reached heights that no story of happiness could quell, they broke out of a jagged treeline into a circular clearing. A roof of branches and leaves reached over to form a thick, impenetrable-looking roof over the entire clearing. In the middle of this area, about 20 feet from where the elven party now stood, a rough-hewn castle of stone blocks stood in the midst of the clearing. Whispers seemed to surround them as they approached the castle. It seemed as if it belonged in Hell itself. "The gate of the Abyss, m'lord." hissed Barrazzo. It felt as if their breathing became heave and laboured, coming in short gasps that sent pillows of mist before them. Ivy and other strange plants snaked up the castle's stone walls. Tufts of weeds and dead grass grew on an old, flint-stone path that lead to a great door in the middle of the wall. A portcullis in front of the door was drawn up as if Corellon and his party were expected arrivals. The portcullis was rusted and the bottom was covered with black soil an dead weeds. They approached the oaken doors, looking warily at the spikes on the portcullis above. Drawing his sword, Corellon knocked hard on the door with his hilt. The other six men drew their swords and stood ready behind him.

"Open thy gates!" the king shouted. "Elven King Corellon Avantar calls upon thee." Slowly, the oaken doors creaked open. Corellon stepped back and sheathed his blade, but kept his right hand on his hilt. He place his left hand against his chest in a fist. Universally, this gesture was one which meant peace, but with a hand on his hilt added a willingness to fight if provoked. Behind the king stood his captain, Captain Swashbuckler Barrazzo Swordthruster, holding his sword with his right hand, his left hand against the back of the blade for steadiness. His sword he held diagonally in front of his chest. Behind him stood the palace guards, swords thrust skyward before them as they held their blades with both hands, standing erect like unmoving statues. The middle guard's left arm was stained dark red on his shirt.

The doors opened and behind it stood a hooded figure swathed in a pitch black robe with gray runes adorning it. It was a great contrast with the white-robed figure trimmed in silver of Corellon Avantar. Behind him stood three more dark-robed figures. Corellon did not move, nor did he speak. "Sheath thy blades, high ones. We bid you no harm, but welcome. You were expected. Your rooms are made ready. Come. Enter Drow Castle." spoke the first. They turned slowly after the high elves sheathed their weapons, Barrazzo being the last to do so.

"If only we did not come in peace. I should like to see that black son-of-a-toad on the end of my steel." Barrazzo whispered to Corellon.

"Hush, my captain. Stay your anger for the present. Here, we are seven, but they are many." the king whispered back. Following the dark clad figures cautiously, they were lead to seven private bedchambers which were made ready. One by one they were dropped off at their rooms and bid farewell for the present by the hooded figures. Once alone, a swirl of thoughts raged through the Elven King's mind. "I don't know what to expect, but I need not be one of grand intelligence to know I will not like it." he said to himself. Although they slept better and more comfortably than in the Darkwood, unremembered visions crept slowly and silently into their dreams to play with their fears.

The above item may have been edited by the author since its first appearance in Legends No. 8.